Sunday, January 24, 2016

Big giant update of tiny little orchids

Hello hello! It's time for another orchid update! My sister gave me a gift certificate from one of my favorite orchid vendors for Christmas, and I had such fun spending it!

Between the gift certificate and a bit of my own funds (to make the shipping charge per orchid work out better, you understand...) I ended up getting six new plants.  I received them two weeks ago.

First up is Pleurothallis niveoglobula, a South American species from Ecuador and Columbia.  This is a bit bigger plant than I was expecting.  The flowers aren't showy, but the overall plant is very pretty.  I like the heart-shaped leaves.

Pleurothallis niveoglobula

It has miniscule white flowers that are carried above the leaves.  They remain globe-shaped and never open fully.  This plant was in bloom when it arrived, and hasn't stopped in the two weeks that I've had it.

Pleurothallis niveoglobula

Next up is Gastrochilus somai.  This originates from Taiwan, and I was thrilled that it also arrived in bud, with two spikes.  The flowers opened on January 12, and are still going strong.

Gastrochilus somai

So pretty!  This species is also fragrant, with a very pleasing lemony-citrus sweet floral scent.

Gastrochilus somai

The rest don't have flowers yet, but are nice healthy plants and are all showing new growth since I've had them.

This one is Amesiella philippensis, originally from the island of Luzon, in the Philippines (bet you never could have guess that, right?).  It will have relatively large, fragrant, white flowers with yellow throats.

Amesiella philippinensis

This is Masdevallia nicaraguae, native to Nicaragua (another obvious one!), and it will have triangular, tubular, white and pink fragrant flowers.

Masdevallia nicaraguae

This is Cirrhopetalum curtisii (also known as Bulbophyllum pulchellum and Bulbophyllum corolliferum), native to southeast Asia. If I can get it to bloom, it will have daisy-esque umbels of pink flowers.

Cirrhopetalum curtisii (Bulbophyllum pulchellum)

And last but not least, this one.  This is one of the cutest things I've ever seen.  This is Bulbophyllum moniliforme, native to southeast Asia.

Bulbophyllum moniliforme

It looks like a string of peas; the "peas" are the pseudobulbs.  Apparently they each have a leaf when immature, but when each pseudobulb is done growing, the leaf falls off.  The triangular flowers will be bigger than the pseudobulbs, and striped with cream and burgundy.

I do so love small orchids.

Bulbophyllum moniliforme

The last orchid is Pleurothallis grobyi, native to Central and South America from Mexico to Brazil.  This particular one is a division of a plant from Mexico and will have sprays of tiny yellowish flowers.

This plant wasn't part of my Christmas order, I got it in early December with my second Lepanthes telipogoniflora.  It didn't do much for a several weeks, but right after we got back from Kansas I noticed that it had started two new leaves, the reddish ones visible toward the bottom.  New leaves are always good.

Pleurothallis grobyi

And to help me keep these beauties alive and happy, I got this today!  Emma and I went to Kennewick, Washington, for our annual ~~Girl's Weekend Out~~, and I saw this small terrarium on sale at PetSmart for 25% off.  I couldn't resist.

New terrarium for the mini orchids!

It's an ExoTerra 12x12x18 glass tank, and for now I just have a layer of Hydroton (expanded clay pellets) in there for drainage and humidity, and two pieces of wood.  The orchids will eventually be mounted to the wood and background, with moss and other cool plants added, but for now they're just in there hanging out and enjoying the humidity and brighter light.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

I'm not a fan of opera....

...however, I defy anyone to not appreciate this.



This is what happens when YouTube leads you in all sorts of random tangents. This little girl has the most amazing voice.  Listening to her gives me chills. Here, go watch her in the semi-finals.  And in the finals.  And she was nine when she did this.

I bought both her albums from iTunes.  Despite not liking opera.  I mean, just wow.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Minerva amaryllis

Today the first of my amaryllis blooms for the season opened.  This is the variety 'Minerva'.

'Minerva' amaryllis. First bloom for me.

I tried to get one of these last year from BiMart, but the bulb I got was mislabled and turned out to be yet another 'Red Lion'.  Seems like these cheap mass marketed bulbs are often jumbled up, because three times I've gotten a 'Red Lion' instead of the variety I was trying to buy ('Minerva' twice, 'Apple Blossom' once).  So now I have four 'Red Lion' bulbs.  Ah well, they're pretty too.

But I'm stubborn, and this time I was successful!  I have a 'Minerva'! We'll see how the 'Apple Blossom' I bought this year turns out...

I love the way amaryllis flowers look like they are covered in diamond dust.  They sparkle in the sun.

'Minerva' amaryllis closeup

Sunday, January 10, 2016

New old roasting pan

One of the things I brought back from Kansas was my mom's large covered oval roasting pan.  I don't think it's super old, and it's certainly not some fancy expensive one, but it was Mom's.  I've wanted one of these for ages, but could never justify it since I got a large rectangular roasting pan as a wedding present oh so long ago.  I don't need a cover every time I roast something, but when I do it's a pain to try and piece together foil to make one. Plus, I hate the handles on the rectangular one and end up burning myself every time I use it.

But now I have a roasting pan with a cover and handles that don't burn me!  I think it's time for the rectangular pan that I never liked to go away.

This afternoon I put Mom's pan to good use, with two smallish chickens and a pile of carrots and potatoes roasted into deliciousness.  I started it off covered for 30 minutes, to steam the veggies and cook the meat faster, then uncovered it for the last hour to brown everything.

Roast chickens and veggies in my mom's roaster. Dinner plus lunches for the week accomplished!

That right there is dinner for tonight, plus five lunches for me and possibly a dinner or two during the week, plus a pot of chicken stock from the bones next weekend .  I love being efficient.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Happy 2016!

Happy New Year!   Emma's and my new year got off to a fantastic start with a trip out to Kansas to see my dad, met there by my sister, brother-in-law, and niece.  It was so great to see everyone, and wonderful to watch the cousins playing.

I couldn't find reasonably-priced plane tickets for me and Emma, so we drove.  It was two 11+ hour days of driving each way, but we had plenty of Harry Potter books on CD and it was actually really enjoyable.  We had good weather, which helped immensely, and the traffic wasn't bad except around Denver on the way home.

We stayed overnight in Rawlins, Wyoming on the way out, and man was it cold!  Temps when we left the motel on Dec. 27 were -14 degrees Farenheit!  I haven't been in weather that cold since I was in college in Maine. The hoarfrost was beautiful, but it was awfully shivery pumping gas!

Hoarfrost in Rawlins, Wyoming, Dec. 27, 2015 Temp: -14 F

We were treated to a beautiful sunset on the Great Plains on the evening of the second day, somewhere near Goodland, Kansas, documented by Emma out of the back window of the car.  This was the tail end of our outbound journey, only a little over three hours left to my dad's house at this point.  We were very glad to get there and not have to drive for five days!

Sunset on the plains. Somewhere near Goodland, Kansas. December 27, 2015.

We had a great visit.  There were Christmas presents and walking in the brisk Kansas wind and reading old family cookbooks and running Dad's model trains and happy shrieks from the basement as the cousins played.  Cooking and going to the movies (Star Wars again!) and sorting through Mom's old kitchen stuff with my sister to divvy up some of the bits and pieces Dad doesn't use anymore.

Emma was delighted that we had snacking-for-dinner on New Year's Eve, which has become a tradition with her and me these past five or six years.  Sis knows all the good cheeses, and introduced me to the wonderment that is cracker plus fig jam plus goat cheese. I am going to have to source some figs next year so I can make a batch of fig jam.

We may have gone a little overboard on the snack spread, but it was all really good!

Snacking for dinner: New Year's Eve feast 2015

All too soon it was time to head out for the trek back home.  We were treated to another beautiful sunset, this time with the Rocky Mountains in silhouette as we headed north from Denver.

Sunset over the Rockies. Near Ft. Collins, Colorado. January 2, 2016.

All in all it was a very uneventful drive, which is a good thing, and I so, so, so enjoyed the extended time with Emma.

I planned ahead and took the day after we got back off from work as well.  This was a good call, because it was wonderful to have a day to decompress after driving all weekend.  I did laundry and said hi to all my plants, and just relaxed.

Oh, and I made jelly!  Here's my first canning project of 2016, some grape jelly.  The batch made seven half pints, but two of the jars went as thank-you gifts to the friends that kept an eye on the cat while we were gone.

First canning of 2016: grape jelly (and dried cranberries)

As for Coco, I think she was convinced that she had been abandoned forever.  I think this is the longest she's ever been left alone since we adopted her, and she apparently did not like it one bit. According to the kitty sitters, she was yowly and clingy when they came to feed her, and this continued after we got home as well.  She didn't leave me and Emma alone from the moment we walked in the door, and stuck to me all the next day while I was home and Emma was in school.  Tuesday, after I was back at work, she was frantic again when we got home in the afternoon. She seemed very relieved that we hadn't left for a week and a half again.

Even tonight, after almost a week of being home and back to our normal routine, she is still being unusually clingy.  Poor kitty.

Coco has been velcro-ed to me for the past week.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Final canning and dehydrating of 2015

Well, 2015 is winding down.  Here's my last batch of food preservation for the year:

Final canning of 2015

Left to right, that's

  • five pints of dehydrated cremini mushrooms
  • eight pint-and-a-half jars of cranberry juice
  • two quarts of dehydrated homegrown tomatoes
  • eight quarts of amazing turkey stock
  • one pint-and-a-half jar of turkey meat with the last bit of stock

This is the first time I've dehydrated mushrooms in a couple years.  The first time I tried, it wasn't successful at all.  The mushrooms dried fine, but they are so hygroscopic when dry that they started rehydrating immediately just from the humidity in the air.  I tried storing them in Ziplocs, in jars, and in Ziplocs IN jars.  Nothing worked to keep the moisture out, and they got leathery and floppy within a couple days, and moldy within a month.  Very disappointing.

This time around, I immediately sealed them in jars using the vacuum sealer attachment of my FoodSaver.  This worked brilliantly.  A week later, and they are still crispy dry and rattle in the jars.  Success!  I love my FoodSaver.

The cranberry juice is the leftover liquid from making dehydrated cranberries (which are still finishing in the dehydrator, but I estimate there will be three pints). I prepared the cranberries by boiling them in water until they popped, then soaked them in an orange juice and honey mixture for an hour to sweeten them before dehydrating.  The cooking/sweetener liquids had too much good flavor to waste, so I mixed them and canned it up.  Yum!

The tomatoes, well..... I'm still processing tomatoes.  You can see in the background of the pictures that I still have garden tomatoes ripening in my dining room, and I've been dehydrating them as they ripen.  I think this is it, though.  We're getting ready to go on vacation for a week and a half, so the last batch that's still not quite ready to dehydrate will be bagged up and tossed in the freezer.  I'll probably sauce them some time after we get back.  Not bad, to still have fresh garden tomatoes at the end of December!  I am officially calling my 2015 tomato harvest a RESOUNDING success.

The turkey stock is also a first for me- the first time canning it, anyway.  I've been freezing stock for years, but I'm out of room in my freezer and am delighted to have pressure canning in my arsenal now.  This batch of stock is one turkey carcass from Thanksgiving, one chicken carcass from several months ago, and four steak bones from some point this summer, plus a big bag of mixed veggie trimmings collected over the past few months.  I was cleaning out the freezer, obviously!  The stock is gorgeous and flavorful, and I'm very excited to have it on hand.

I did the single jar of turkey meat because I had 3/4 pound left over from the batch I got out to make soup the other day, and I knew it wouldn't last in the fridge until we got back from vacation.  So I jarred it, added the last bit of stock that wasn't enough for a full quart, and topped it off with water. Easy peasy, and ready for another batch of soup.

Canning and dehydrating is so satisfying.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Solstice

Be still.  Be at peace.  Light has returned.

Solstice quiet.